Boreal ecology is defined as the study of all aquatic and terrestrial aspects (genetic, physiological, morphological, behavioural, and ecological) of boreal ecosystems at micro- and macro-habitat scales, with emphasis on stressed systems, impacts of disturbance, restoration, and species sustainability and conservation. The Ph.D. Program in Boreal Ecology will provide academic and research opportunities for exceptional students and will prepare them for careers in academia, resource-based industries, and environmental enterprises in the private and public sectors.
The Ph.D. Program requires that students take 2 additional 3-credit courses for the Ph.D. degree with consultation from the Research Advisory Committee. These courses will be in addition to the mandatory seminar-based course (BIOL-6056EL - Doctorial Seminars) and thesis (BIOL-6000EL - Doctoral Thesis) and reflect the background knowledge necessary for the successful completion of the Program. Undergraduate courses or combined graduate/undergraduate courses (which have different criteria for undergraduate and graduate student participation) cannot be counted towards the attainment of a Ph.D. degree.
Compulsory Research Thesis
For the Ph.D. degree, either a "standard thesis" or a "chapter thesis" format will be acceptable (BIOL-6000EL - Doctoral Thesis). To submit a thesis by chapter format, a student must have a minimum of at least three potential refereed publications on completion. In this format, the thesis must also contain a separate General Introducton and Summary covering the entire project.
Compulsory Seminar Course
All Ph.D. students will be required to take the course, BIOL-6056EL - Doctorial Seminars. Students in this course will be required to organize, develop, and create a poster, and present two seminars to the other graduate students in the course - one on the History and Philosophy of Science and the other on their research topic. Attendance at all seminars will be compulsory. In addition, students will be required to attend the Seminar Series in their respective departments, which systematically includes seminars by graduate students and external speakers. It is anticipated that this course will provide a common experience for all students enrolled in the Program and will introduce the student to a variety of research topics.
Optional Graduate Courses
Graduate courses at the 5000 and 6000 levels currently available in the Department of Biology, Chemistry/Biochemistry, and Earth Sciences can be taken by Ph.D. students, with agreement from the Supervisor, Research Advisory Committee and Graduate Coordinator.
Every student in the Ph.D. Program in Boreal Ecology will be required to successfully complete a Comprehensive Examination. The examination must take place within the first 18 months of entrance to the Ph.D. Program. Enrolment for the Comprehensive Examination is limited to two consecutive academic sessions and failure to complete the Comprehensive Examination within the required time limit will preclude continuation in the doctoral program, unless there are valid reasons. The purpose of the Comprehensive Examination is to ensure that the student is capable of forming research hypotheses outside the immediate area of his/her thesis, to ensure that the student has a solid background in his/her area of expertise, and to ensure that the student's general knowledge outside the area of his/her thesis is adequate. The Examining Committee will assign a grade of pass, incomplete, or fail. In the case of a failure, the student will be given the opportunity to repeat the Comprehensive Examination; however, a second failure will be grounds for dismissal from the Ph.D. Program.
Thesis Defence Procedure
Students will be required to present a public seminar and subsequently to undergo an in cameraoral defence of their thesis. The Ph.D. thesis evaluation procedure will be established for the University through the office of the Dean, School of Graduate Studies. However, the general features of this procedure are as follows. The Examination Committee for the Ph.D. degree will be composed of a Chair (non-voting), a minimum of two members of the Research Advisory Committee, an examiner external to the Program, and an examiner external to the university. The supervisor will not be a member of the Committee, but will be present at the defence. The Examination Committee will then meet in the absence of the student to discuss his/her performance. The Committee will decide whether the thesis is acceptable for the degree and whether corrections are required before the final approval of the thesis.
The Ph.D. Program in Boreal Ecology has three fields of focus:
Stressed Aquatic Ecosystems
This field deals with research associated with freshwater aquatic systems in the Precambrian Shield and the Hudson Bay Lowlands. It builds upon the excellent research record and data bases developed through the collaborative work of the Cooperative Freshwater Ecology Unit, a partnership between Laurentian University, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of the Environment, the City of Greater Sudbury, and the mining industry. As Sudbury has in excess of 300 lakes within the city boundaries and Northern Ontario has many thousands of freshwater lakes, rivers and wetlands, the opportunity to specialize in ths area is unlimited. Research topics in this focal area include inorganic metal loading, acid precipitation, global warming, and studies of biotic systems at all trophic levels from prokaryotes to vertebrates.
Sustainable Terrestrial Ecosystems
This field deals with terrestrial ecosystems in the Precambrian Shield and the Hudson Bay Lowlands. It builds on the research record and data bases developed through collaborative work between Laurentian University, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the forestry, mining, ecotourism, and trapping industries. Research topics in this area include the sustainability of woodland caribou populations, biodiversity of aquatic beetles, reintroduction of elk into Ontario, ecology of parasites in boreal birds and mammals, ecology of insects associated with shrubs and trees, forestry and pine marten management, and the impact of both natural and anthropogenic disturbances on boreal ecosystems, and studies on the impact of global warming on terrestrial floristic and faunal communities.
Conservation and Restoration Ecology
This field focuses on disturbed ecosystems within the Precambrian Shield and the Hudson Bay Lowlands. It builds on the internationally recognized research that spearheaded regreening of the Sudbury region, through collaboration by Laurentian University, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the City of Greater Sudbury, and the mining industry. Recent visits and collaborations by Scandinavian and Russian researchers emphasized the global aspects of this field. As Northern Ontario provides access to many mining sites and stressed urban ecosystems, there are unique opportunities for those specializing in this field. Research in this focal area includes studies on acid mine drainage, radionuclide contamination, impacts of heavy metals and pH, soil biology, revegetation and recolonization of damaged industrial lands, identification of acid/metal tolerant species, conservation of vertebrates in aquatic habitats, and the modelling of vegetation recovery.